As we are one-sixth of the way through the season, we can start to consider some trends and how they fit into our expectations. Coming into the year, Met fans were certainly optimistic that their former number one prospect, Amed Rosario, would take a step towards super stardom. While he has shown a hot bat of late, his defensive follies have hurt the club and become less excusable over time; this is especially true considering that Rosario received prospect grades of 55 and 60 in ‘field’ and ‘throw’ categories respectively by baseball analysts.
Meanwhile, the Mets have been unable to rely on their bullpen outside of Edwin Diaz for the most part of 2019. Seth Lugo, who received some trade interest from the Houston Astros in the offseason, is on a warm streak and is providing much needed stability in an area of weakness. Lugo, who pitched exactly 101.1 innings in each of the last two seasons, is on pace for 102 innings pitched in 2019. Mets fans are clamoring for Craig Kimbrel, but perhaps a flip has switched and we will see positive returns from the bullpen moving forward, especially once Justin Wilson returns from the IL.
Rosario and his defensive woe – The Mets are third worst team in the major leagues in terms of defensive runs saved (DRS). Their 23 year old shortstop is the leading offender with a -8 DRS, which the worst mark in the majors at the position. Rosario owns seven errors on the season thus far, five fielding and two throwing, all within a six game span. The old baseball adage is to have a strong defense up the middle of the field; the lack thereof has hurt the club thus far. A talent evaluator recently said that Rosario looks like he has ‘Don’t hit the ball to me’ syndrome, which also seems to extend to ‘Don’t throw down to second to me.’ Make no mistake, if the Mets were in need of an everyday shortstop outside of Rosario, they would have to look outside the active roster, despite some very short lived playing time at the position by Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazer. The club has Adeiny Hechavarria in Syracuse who serves as a solid insurance policy with his plus glove. If Rosario’s bat were cooled down, one could make the argument for Rosario to be sent down for some seasoning and a shift of focus.
Shining bullpen arm as of late – As of writing this, Seth Lugo has not allowed a run in his last four outings, spanning one week’s time. In fact, he has only given up one hit and one walk, while striking out eight across 19 batters. On the season, Lugo has improved his K/9 to 12.23 compared to an 8.13 career average. His 3.07 fielding independent pitching (FIP) is also the best of his career. Lugo has always been known for his nasty curveball with a high spin rate, as he ranks sixth in the major leagues in the category this year. The Mets have optimized Lugo’s usage in a variety of situations, as he’s pitched evenly across innings five through nine.
What’s interesting is that he’s throwing strikes right at his career average rate of 65%, however he is throwing his fastball and slider more often while reducing his curveball usage. A look at his pitching charts show that Lugo is pitching up in the zone more often and getting more strikeouts there as a result. Lugo’s recent success is a breath of fresh air as the Mets pitching has been just short of a disaster this season. It’s possible that with Jeurys Familia’s recent struggles that we will see Lugo used as a setup man to Diaz more often.